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Humanity's Next Leap of Space Knowledge


Shade_Wilder
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I hope that all my fellow Space Junkies are already familiar with this story, but on the off chance...

The James Webb Space Telescope will be launched soon, and it'll GREATLY expand our knowledge of the cosmos when it becomes operational.

I have added links to a pair of CNN articles and a BBC report which goes into some detail. (Below)

We are truly blessed to be alive during this period of discovery; given that the Universe seems endless, us getting in on the proverbial 'Ground Floor' of Space knowledge is a pretty neat place to be.

I look forward to discussing it all over the next few years...

https://edition.cnn.com/2021/11/18/world/james-webb-space-telescope-faq-scn-film/index.html

 

https://edition.cnn.com/2021/11/15/world/james-webb-space-telescope-explainer-scn/index.html

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-59476869

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9 hours ago, WilliamG said:

What else could we use $10B for? Hmmmmmm.

 

What else could we have gotten for 10 Billion dollars?

Many, many possible things, but that is true regardless of the investment. Would I like to see an extra 10 billion dollars go to fighting child hunger? Yes. Would I like to see an extra 10 billion dollars go to creating a faster Net? Yes. Simply put, there are always competing things that could be funded.

Is Space research funding a good thing? Yes! A wholehearted 'YES'! Can we afford it and still do other good things? Yes. It isn't a case of either/or.

Are there economic benefits to space research? Looking back, it is crystal clear that there are. Out of the US Space program (for example), we got 'Spin-off Technologies' such as; 

Artificial limbs, Scratch-resistant lenses, Insulin pump, Firefighting equipment, DustBusters, LASIK, Shock absorbers for buildings, Solar cells, Water filtration, Better tires, Wireless headsets, Adjustable smoke detector, Invisible braces, Freeze-dried foods, Camera phones, CAT scans, Baby formula, Lifeshears (Jaws of Life), Grooved pavement, Air purifier, Memory foam, Workout machines, Home insulation, Infrared ear thermometers, Ice-resistant airplanes, Portable computer, LEDs, 3D food printing, Computer mouse, better Athletic shoes (list taken from a USA Today article; Google is your friend). The is NOT a final, comprehensive list, but it does demonstrate the economic benefits of the process.

I would say that the list above of 'Spin-Off Technologies' is evidence that the space program has actually paid for itself, but that can be debated. The point is that research and development of space capabilities and capacities leads to other good things as well and it is certain that the Webb Telescope project will follow that trend.

However, while the list above demonstrates concrete, measurable advances and benefits of space research and exploration, it is the intangibles that are the most valuable.

A country, a society or a culture needs to keep moving forward or it stagnates and dies (the old USSR under Brezhnev is a prime example) and Space IS the Final Frontier (well of course I am a Trekkie; was there doubt?). The exploration of the Cosmos provides a goal to strive for and a challenge to meet, something that our species and planet needs. Yes, it is almost certain that there will be tangible benefits derived from the exercise, but it is the journey of discovery which matters and will sustain humanity into the future.

If we ever stop looking at the stars and wondering 'What's out there?', then we have started to die.

 

 

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10 hours ago, WilliamG said:

What else could we use $10B for? Hmmmmmm.

We could have given each human on Earth US$1.28.

Ten billion in the current world is pocket change. It seems like a lot of money but it's not really enough to do anything major. At least with the Webb we might have a chance to find out where we came from before we snuff ourselves out.

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2 hours ago, JamesE said:

Why which? The learning part or the snuffing out part?

Both. I'll be brown bread before we all get snuffed out!   LOL

Edited by WilliamG
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4 minutes ago, WilliamG said:

Both. I'll be brown bread before we all get snuffed out!   LOL

You just have to think a bit longer term...

The ten billion spent on Webb, (for a ten year potential operating mission) is the equivalent of 0.13% of what the US will spend on "defense" over the same time period, for a mission driven just by curiosity. Without that driving curiosity you and I would still be pounding rocks together to crack nuts.

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Big news today; large deposits of water were discovered on Mars (see links below).

This would be big and significant news no matter what as the presence of water on Mars would greatly assist in the future colonization of the planet; yes, it is going to occur, the only question is when, and I sincerely hope in my lifetime.

However, the discovery is doubly significant due to its location in Valles Marineres, often referred to as "Mars' Grand Canyon". 

Why is the location important? 

There is a remarkable correlation between future Space events and Science Fiction books; Sci-Fi authors have a knack of writing about futures and concepts which come true; Arthur C. Clark's geosynchronous orbit and Star Trek's 'Pad' (iPad) are common examples. In several Sci-Fi books writers have presented a colony on Mars in Valles Marineres; it would be on the bottom of the canyon and inside the canyon walls with the top of the canyon covered in some kind of dome to protect a man-made atmosphere (sadly, I do not remember specific Sci-Fi stories that feature this; any members recall?). The discovery of "Significant" quantities of water there would greatly simplify any construction of a colony/domed area in terms of both feasibility and livability, and enhance the likelihood of success by being able to source life-giving elements locally. 

Forget condos in Bangkok; where can I pre-purchase a space in the canyon wall of Valles Marineres?

We truly live in wonderous times!

 

 
 
 

 

 

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On 12/17/2021 at 1:42 AM, Shade_Wilder said:

(sadly, I do not remember specific Sci-Fi stories that feature this; any members recall?)

Not sure if to what extent they're 'domed' in either one, but just digging in my memory for 30s I come up with:

- The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey

- The Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton

both have people living in the Mariner Valley

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3 hours ago, FTF020 said:

Not sure if to what extent they're 'domed' in either one, but just digging in my memory for 30s I come up with:

- The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey

- The Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton

both have people living in the Mariner Valley

 

Cheers Mate! 

In the last day or so a voice in the back of my head says 'Ben Bova book', but I genuinely don't remember. And, you are correct regarding the word 'domed'; it is just used everywhere in Sci-Fi, so I use it too. My guess is that a 'dome' shape has significance for air-circulation and/or light (I'll try my luck a second time; anyone know why 'space cities' are 'domed' and not 'roofed'?), but I don't know; perhaps it just sounds cooler than 'roof'.

My fascination with Valles Marineres is due to how that (forgotten) author described the scale of it. They stated that the canyon was so large that if you put a roof/dome over it, you could house all of humanity on the floor and in the side walls of the canyon. It was a neat idea when I first read it, but it really hit home in the late '80s when I had my first visit to HK. As you do/did, my first day there I went up the Peak to have a look and the human density plus the three-dimensional living space hit me; that was what the Author had meant. That concept of 'Eco-Density' was still with us in Urban Planning circles up until Covid; I'll be curious if it stays when we get out of the current mess.

marsglobe1.thumb.jpg.a52733f4248f0f1e6ff5edc3bb9c9d54.jpg

Isn't it beautiful? (photo from Space.com)

This composite image of Valles Marineris was taken by NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter.

(Photo from CNN.com)

The launch of the Webb Telescope is just a few days away; what a great era for Space Junkies!

https://www.space.com/20446-valles-marineris.html

https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_83.html

https://home.csulb.edu/~rodrigue/mars/ireyalvarado/valles.html

https://edition.cnn.com/2021/12/16/world/exomars-water-mars-grand-canyon-scn/index.html

 

 

Edited by Shade_Wilder
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17 hours ago, Shade_Wilder said:

And, you are correct regarding the word 'domed'; it is just used everywhere in Sci-Fi, so I use it too. My guess is that a 'dome' shape has significance for air-circulation and/or light (I'll try my luck a second time; anyone know why 'space cities' are 'domed' and not 'roofed'?), but I don't know; perhaps it just sounds cooler than 'roof'.

Oh yeah I wasn't particulary talking about the shape of the roof, just having the valley habitats covered as opposed to, for example, the whole planet terraformed or put everything underground.

(I think ive read over 250 scifi books in the last decade, i've seen every solution possible, it's just remembering them that's hard 😁)

17 hours ago, Rain said:

If only humanity could put the same effort and energy into making an already quite habitable planet even more so.....imagine. 

This is so true. These days I really look at any sci fi, no matter how 'hard', as purely fiction. I think our current trajectory puts the point of total or near extinction well before us becoming interplanetary 🙁

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  • 2 weeks later...

 

Hello fellow Space Junkies!
 
As I write this, it is 4 days into the "29 days on the edge" where the Webb telescope is flying into position and unfolding. The destination is a place dubbed 'L2' where it'll reside.
 
"Even just a few days into its journey, Webb has already covered more than one-third of the distance to its final orbit, circling a point known as L2, or the Earth-sun Lagrange point 2. Here, nearly 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) away from Earth on the opposite side as the sun, the gravitational tugs of the sun and Earth balance out, creating a relatively stable environment for spacecraft." (quote from the Space.com article, link below)
 
Assuming that all goes to plan, and I really hope it does all go to plan, the telescope will spend 6 months or so preparing for its mission.
 
I wish that more people were excited about this; it is possibly the most audacious Scientific/Engineering project ever attempted by human beings. We (yes, I want a share of the credit) are sending a machine about 1.5 million kilometers away from our home planet in the most inhospitable environment possible; ain't that cool?
 
Okay, I get it; there is a modern-day maxim which applies...
 
Send Photos Or It Didn't Happen.
 
It is going to be a long six months.
 
 
 

 

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Fascinating! 

A huge temperature differential from sunny side to the dark side of ~ minus 150c must have been a challenge for engineers to ensure all mechanical components wouldn't fail due to thermal expansion and contraction.

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Many rubbish Sci fi, then use their mobile phones to ring home half a world away.  Just 40 years ago if you stood on a street corner holding a piece of plastic to your ear and having a conversation you would be deemed in dire need of a mental assessment.

I'm extremely jealous of the todays children, they will get to see and use the wonders of new technology and the future in space thanks to the fertile imagination and creative genius of people today. (probably all read Sci fi in their younger years)

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57 minutes ago, KaptainRob said:

Fascinating! 

A huge temperature differential from sunny side to the dark side of ~ minus 150c must have been a challenge for engineers to ensure all mechanical components wouldn't fail due to thermal expansion and contraction.

 

Hi @KaptainRob

Your post started me thinking about the challenges, and two stood out in my brain.

I started to wonder about the calculations and precision required for the propulsion of the machine and the ability to slow down/stop in the correct location; not being mathematically-inclined, I can only marvel. (Hmm... any geniuses out there who could tell me what sort of precision would be required? And is the general L2 area enough or does it need a certain, specific location within L2?)

Secondly, there are moving parts; how are they lubricated? It is the dead cold of space; could common machine oil be used? Bacon grease? Or, are there specialized lubricants that work in that temperature?

Any members able to answer these questions? Or, make an educated guess?

Being personally quite slow in the head, but being able to google stuff, I tried "What were the engineering challenges of the Webb Telescope?" and found the fascinating link below. And, KR, the issue of heating and cooling is addressed.

@palookaDon't be too jealous of future kids; we are getting some great stuff as well. Yes, they'll see advanced items, but it is likely that we will have more 'unknowns' revealed to us simply because we are starting from a lower baseline of knowledge.

BTW, Space.com is a cool site!

https://www.space.com/james-webb-space-telescope-engineering-challenges

 

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22 minutes ago, Shade_Wilder said:

Secondly, there are moving parts; how are they lubricated? It is the dead cold of space; could common machine oil be used? Bacon grease? Or, are there specialized lubricants that work in that temperature?

Good question.  Normal oils can't be used so they'll have highly developed solid lubricants, probably not bacon grease though 🥴  I'd think something like graphite grease which is used for high temperature applications, not sure about extreme lows.

Tolerances between moving parts must have been calculated to accommodate thermal expansion/contraction and either loose-fitting joints or packed with a self-lubricating system.  Cutting edge technology for sure!

Addit: 344 single point precision items (assume moving parts) must not fail.  Wow!

Edited by KaptainRob
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1 hour ago, Shade_Wilder said:

Secondly, there are moving parts; how are they lubricated? It is the dead cold of space; could common machine oil be used? Bacon grease? Or, are there specialized lubricants that work in that temperature?

In another life I worked with a specialist oil company that created grease and oil to work at very low (and high) temperatures, artic conditions (-50C) and aerospace etc, feel sure they were capable of creating higher density lubricants for space.  They had a chemist there that thrived on challenges and would disappear into his lab for days to find a solution.

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Hello Again Fellow Space Junkies

More interesting information on the Webb Telescope mission.

I really can't say just how much that I hope it makes it to its location and becomes operational; once again I'll note that it is going to be a long 6 months until the first images arrive.

It appears that the first course correction went much better than expected, and thus the geniuses are predicting a "significantly" longer operational life span than the previous estimate of 10 years.

Way-Cool!

Secondly, as I noted in a post above, I am fascinated by the precision required in this project. I would love to understand the mathematics involved in both calculating the precise location and the requirements needed to get there, but alas I am post-grad Poly Sci, A.K.A. 'unemployable'. That said, there are a few comments on the speed(s) of the telescope. I really wish I could sit down for a coffee with someone who both understands the mathematics and could explain it all to a layman; if any members have insight to the mathematics, please jump in! Hmm... Are we advanced enough that we could plug all this into a computer program and have it spit out the answer, or would this mission require a unique set of calculations?

Anyone?

I am posting 2 links for your reading pleasure.

The Science alert gives a quick overview.

https://www.sciencealert.com/there-was-a-major-unexpected-benefit-to-james-webb-s-christmas-launch

The Universe today is essentially the same article, but with expanded info. Be sure to click on the Twitter links/Threads embedded in the article for some cool explanatory graphics and information.

https://www.universetoday.com/153851/jwsts-precise-launch-and-near-perfect-course-corrections-mean-fuel-savings-and-that-means-a-longer-mission/

Happy New Year

 

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Update...

Along with  a successful course correction, they have managed to unfurl the heat shield.

"One of the James Webb Space Telescope's most nail-biting deployment steps is safely in the books...

...The shiny silver shield measures 69.5 feet long by 46.5 feet wide (21.2 by 14.2 meters) when fully deployed — far too large to fit inside the protective payload fairing of any currently operational rocket. So it was designed to launch in a highly compact configuration and then unfold once Webb got to space...

...Webb's sunshield assembly includes 140 release mechanisms, approximately 70 hinge assemblies, eight deployment motors, bearings, springs, gears, about 400 pulleys and 90 cables totaling 1,312 feet [400 m]."

(quote from the Space.com article, link below)

This is a stunning piece of Engineering in any circumstances, but to do it while traveling in space? WOW.

There is so much depressing crap going on in the world that it is great to hear about something awesome. It sometimes makes me wonder that if we (humanity) can do this, then perhaps we can do something about Climate Change, Covid-19 and the next batch of virus', species extinction, and all the other major issues facing humanity. 

Maybe, just maybe, we won't kill ourselves off before we learn more of the super cool stuff out there.

https://www.space.com/james-webb-space-telescope-sunshield-deployment-success

 

 

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Great advances in knowledge have always occurred after great advances in technology (Telescope) and accidents (Penicillin). With a bit of luck the James Webb and the Square Kilometre Array will resolve the problems with things like Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Expansion, and Quantum Gravity.  But just like the Hubble telescope, it will reveal a lot more than was ever thought of at the time it was launched.  That is of course if it all works - so many things can go wrong - and once done it cannot be repaired or re-tuned like Hubble was (not in our lifetimes anyway). 

 

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Hello Fellow Space Junkies!

In line with the idea of general Space discoveries and also 'Way Cool' space news, I was reading an article on 'Rogue planets'. What are Rogue planets? They are planets which roam freely through the universe, untethered to a star. Serious Trekkies will recall the Rogue World hunting expedition on Enterprise, various stories from TNG, and of course in DS9 that a rogue planet was the home-world of the Dominion's Changelings. Seriously, you didn't realize I was a Trekkie?

What's new is the number of them; scientists have always known they exist, but modern theory posits that there might be more of them than actual stars (See Universe Today article, link below). Further, it is possible that they have the occasional atmosphere and other life-giving possibilities (I'll wait for more definitive proof, but... interesting). Finally, as we aren't able to 'see' them too clearly at the moment, they could even be close by and more interesting than we know.

How are they formed? The Universe today mentions several possible methods;

"...astronomers have conjectured that planets regularly form in interstellar space, that they are pulled away by gravitational interactions with passing stars, that supernovae kick them out, or that they free float into space after their sun dies..."

What is the significance of this? My first thought is that it'll affect the Drake Equation, a mathematical formula for estimating the number of intelligence-supporting civilizations in the Milky Way. 

The Drake Equation is:

image.jpeg.9bf528de159cd37d4a56dfbb456517ac.jpeg


(Drake Equation Image and explanation from Google and Wikipedia)

 

 

Okay, a bit clumpy to work with and it definitely does not provide any definitive proof, but is does suggest that intelligent civilizations are out there, albeit rare. And, if you plug in Rogue planets that might have an atmosphere, as suggested in the latest research, the number rises.

The more we learn of the Cosmos, the greater the number of possibilities of having other life in some form or another. Our history suggests that it won't be good for us to meet them on their terms, but perhaps other species/other life is more enlightened about this than we are/were.

What a "Way Cool' time to be alive.

https://www.universetoday.com/153883/astronomers-find-70-planets-without-stars-floating-free-in-the-milky-way/#more-153883

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation

 

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Because of Vastness of SpaceTime It comes down to Belief. No Evidence Yet. 100 Light Years of Unresponded Radio Wave Transmissions. Evolutionary Process. True Odds of Evolving non- Human Advanced Civilization are literally Astronomical. Drake is Wrong.

So Personally, I believe Universe is Cold Dark Empty ….. and Fascinating ……

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